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Supervisors object to use of eminent domain for CO2 pipeline

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graphic, photo of letter

Letter sent to Iowa Utilities Board

The Crawford County Board of Supervisors on Monday approved a letter to be sent to the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) concerning the proposed Summit Carbon Solutions pipeline that could pass through Crawford County if approved by the IUB.

The pipeline would deliver liquefied carbon dioxide (CO2) from 31 ethanol plants in the Midwest to an underground storage area in North Dakota.

In the letter, which was written by Supervisor Ty Rosburg, the supervisors objected to the use of eminent domain for the project.

Eminent domain is the process by which private land can be taken for public use.

The supervisors have discussed concerns in recent months that the Summit Carbon Solutions pipeline does not appear to be a public use.

In a lengthy discussion on December 28, Rosburg said he supports ethanol, and the purpose of the pipeline, but not the use of eminent domain.

“It’s no different than wanting to build a shopping mall and using eminent domain for that,” Rosburg said.

Supervisor Jean Heiden said people had also expressed concern about how the pipeline could be considered a utility.

Supervisor Kyle Schultz said he had talked to a Clay County supervisor about the pipeline on December 27.

“He’s in the same boat we are – he supports it but doesn’t support eminent domain,” Schultz said.

Rosburg said he understood the perspective of individuals with environmental concerns about the project, and the push to keep ethanol plants as “carbon neutral” as possible.

“Down the road, the regulatory system, or something to that effect, could be putting them right out of business, and then we lose an avenue of sales for our corn supply,” he said.

Rosburg said he had questions about the safety of the underground storage part of the project.

Summit Carbon Solutions would have to “make it right” with farmers to use their land – rather than use eminent domain to take the land, he said.

Supervisor Eric Skoog said that when the county instituted the “master matrix” plan for locating hog production facilities, that process removed eminent domain from the options.

He said people also objected to the West Central Iowa Rural Water Association (WCIRWA) project when it was put in.

Heiden pointed out that WCIRWA is a public utility.

“That’s where this gets muddy,” Schultz said. “Are they going to deem it a public utility or not? If they don’t deem it as a public utility, why is it going to the utility board and how can the utility board take eminent domain?”

“I told a gentleman who called me, ‘If you do not want it going over your property, do not sign up,’” said Chairperson Jeri Vogt.

(Vogt was chairperson through the end of December; Schultz now holds that title.)

Rosburg said farmers want to be able to say whether the pipeline is buried deeper than the company’s plan, and they don’t want to have a pipe sticking up in a farm field.

Schultz said he had talked to supervisors in northern Iowa who said eminent domain wasn’t used much for the Dakota Access oil pipeline project because the company greased the wheels of those who didn’t want to sign.

Heiden said people don’t want to be forced into having their land used for the CO2 pipeline project.

During this Monday’s meeting, Rosburg asked Assistant County Attorney Martha Sibbel if the Summit Carbon Solutions Pipeline would qualify for the use of eminent domain.

“They … would have to somehow rope it in to the public/private partnership, and that’s always a difficult argument to make in eminent domain,” she said. “It’s messy because it’s going to get appealed whenever you get public/private.”

Using eminent domain to put in a highway would be a public-only use, she said.

She said the pipeline company could have looked at how Scout Clean Energy dealt with landowners for their project.

Scout Clean Energy signed contracts that exceed the terms of the standard contract for several landowners for their wind farm project south of Westside.

In Rosburg’s letter to the IUB, he wrote that the supervisors don’t object to the installation of the CO2 pipeline, but “we believe the use of eminent domain is to be reserved for the use of publicly-owned or community-service infrastructure and using it to construct this type of project would be an inappropriate use of this measure.”

The letter asked that IUB deny use of eminent domain for the Summit Carbon Solutions pipeline or other privately-owned hazardous liquid pipelines.

“It is this board’s opinion that privately-held land interactions/transactions are to be negotiated between the private entities involved,” the letter concluded.

The supervisors voted 5-0 to send the letter to IUB.

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